Travel industry stayed steady in state in 1999

Travel industry stayed steady in state in 1999 Visitors to South Dakota pumped $593.3 million into the state's economy in 1999, creating a $1.48 billion economic impact.

This spending level kept pace with 1998, which produced the highest rate of real growth in vacation travel spending on record.

Visitor spending also generated an estimated $18 million in sales tax for the state's coffers and another $19 million in gasoline tax. And, the travel industry accounted for 30,267 jobs across the state, or one in every 12 jobs.

"The visitor industry has a tremendous impact in every corner of this state," said Patricia Van Gerpen, secretary of the South Dakota Department of Tourism. "From Webster to Hill City, visitors keep the cash registers ringing in cities across South Dakota."

In the Black Hills region, 1999 visitor spending increased by 3.5 percent, while the Southeast and Northeast regions remained nearly consistent with 1998. The Great Lakes region, or central South Dakota, saw a drop of 2.8 percent in visitor spending likely due to changes in fishing conditions.

Visitor spending was split nearly evenly between eastern and western South Dakota. Fifty-five percent of visitor expenditures took place in the Black Hills region, while the other 45 percent took place in eastern and central South Dakota.

While visitor spending was up across the state, another key indicator, hotel/motel occupancy, was down slightly at 68.4 percent. The Southeast region saw a slight increase in occupancy, despite gaining 360 lodging units. The South Central part of the state was also up, but the North Central, Northeast and Western regions all recorded slight decreases in hotel/motel occupancy. Meanwhile, the number of room nights rented, a figure that takes into account the addition of new lodging units, ran essentially even with 1998.

Campground occupancy was strong for the state as a whole in 1999. The statewide average reached 54.6 percent, just exceeding 1998's recent high of 54.4 percent. All of the regions, except central South Dakota, recorded increases in campground occupancy.

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